Grief — it should be a four letter word. I can count; I know it isn’t. But it feels like it should be.
In my 32 years I’ve dealt with my fair share. And it never gets easier. Not only is it difficult to experience the loss yourself, but it is also tough to watch friends and loved ones going through a loss of their own.
You don’t want to see them hurt and want to do whatever you can to help, but finding the right thing to say or do is nearly impossible. Even going through similar losses leaves me unable to find something suitable to proffer. And in situations that I’ve never experienced myself, I feel I’m an even bigger mess in offering advice.
A little more than a year ago a good friend lost her mother. When she called me, tears so hard it was difficult to understand what she was saying, my eyes immediately welled. It was just about a year after losing my dad, a loss she witnessed and helped me through. I was lost.
“Sorry,” I said, choking on my words. “I’m so, so sorry!”
What could I do? What could I say?
Those were the same question that friend had asked herself after she received a similar call from me about my dad the year prior.
I didn’t know the answer to it then, and I certainly don’t know the answer to it today.
There isn’t anything. There is no one right thing to say or do; nothing that will make the bone-shattering sadness and breath-stealing grief go away.
So when a different friend this week experienced a tragic loss, I once again found myself speechless.
“Sorry,” I said, again beginning to cry. “I’m so, so sorry!”
I wanted (and still do want) to do whatever I can to ease that grief and sadness. To make this friend know that, even though things seem so difficult and painful right now, it gets better. It will take time; it will take tears; it may take chocolate or strawberry margaritas and a lot of talks.
Like I said before, there is no one right thing to say or do. But what I’ve learned to do in the last few years, a lesson learned through my father’s death, is just to be there. I know, I know; it sounds so simple, right. Why wasn’t I doing that all along?
We all say that’s what we are going to do; what we all intend to do. Instead though, it typically turns into awkwardly bringing things up or awkwardly avoiding them. And then, some too short time after the grief began, the we act as if our friend’s grief just all went away.
I’ve learned to really be there. I’m there tomorrow or two years from now. I’m there to just go to the playground as our kids play in the background and we idly chit chat or there to text into the wee hours of the morning. I’m there to have hot cocoa and talk about the grief, or I’m there to focus on that day’s lunch order. I’m not driving the boat; I’m a total passenger. And I don’t plan to get off of it either.
How do you help friends and loved ones deal with grief or loss?